Twenty years ago, when I would be admitted for a hospital stay - for a “tune up” as my CF worsened - I would slip into a stairwell before my I.V. was hooked up… I’d climb. I needed to see where I was physically at admission. I’d usually get up 1 floor, maybe 1 ½ before I was breathing too hard to continue…
For the next 10 days I would get physical therapy - four 45 minute chest poundings - and 8-10 bags of antibiotics hung on my I.V. daily. At the end of my stay, the day before I was to be discharged, I would slip back into that stairwell - After my tune-up, I would climb 2 ½-3 ½ floors before I was gasping.
Ten years later, when I was sick enough to be listed for a lung transplant, a flight of stairs looked like Mount Everest. I would tackle it 2 or 3 or 4 steps at a time - toting my oxygen, and pausing after each little group until I was gasping more steadily.
In February, for the fifth time since 2003, I took the stairs 94 floors, 1660 steps, to the top of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. It was a stroll in the park. Over the last seven years, I could do it every day if I wanted.
The irony of my little hospital "self-tests" didn’t strike me until just a few years ago…
Ain't this a very cool picture?!? It means so much more to me than most because of the people in it. In the middle is my Jenn - the Jenn who posts here. Flanking her are Katie, with her fists in the air, and Alex, giving a "thumbs up". Kari wore number 13 on her Algona High School volleyball team - Katie wore number 12 and Alex wore number 7. Jenn was one of Kari's running-buddies and was running with Kari days before she passed. This is the third time Jenn has climbed with me, and the first time for Alex and Katie.
This explains a little about how I met Jenn. I met Alex very briefly when we met Kari's family - and Alex was one of the first Iowans to give me a Hustle pledge (way too much for a young person in college...) Though I had exchanged emails with both of them for a few years, I hugged Katie and Alex for the first time last year.
Can you even imagine what it’s like to feel her love in her friend’s hug? And, to see the love for her in a friend's smile?
I don't know that I can easily explain what it feels like to be with Kari's friends - Every year Laura and I have flowers placed on Kari's grave on her birthday, and on the day she passed and gave me life. I always have a note tucked in with them - sometimes to her family, but usually to Kari. This was my note on her birthday in March, after the Hustle - maybe this will help explain:
I spent a weekend with Alex, Katie, Jenn and Kathryn – Wendy got caught up in your crazy Iowa weather, but I know I’ll meet her someday. They are all so precious, Kari – I know you are proud of them… I am too.
Sometimes people ask me if I can feel you around me – sometimes I tell them I don’t know… But I’m not sure that’s true. My heart dances whenever I’m around Jenn, Kathryn, Alex, Katie – and I know it will around Wendy. I always feel like a puppy whose boy just came home. I’m surprise my butt doesn’t wag when I see them!
Thank you for bringing your friends and your family into my life.
How’s my Lizzy? Isn’t she special?!?! Please hug her for me – I miss her so.
Thank you for all you’ve given me – your smile will warm my heart forever. Laura says hi!